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in the Greek, that differ in significance. The first* means to feed, the secondt has a wider meaning, and includes the entire work of the shepherd, ruling and superintending the flock, as well as fur. nishing them with food. These words are hardly used indiscriminately. The first charge is, “ Feed my lambs;" the second is, “Shepherd my sheep ;" the third is, "Feed my sheep.” The two words include the two parts of ministerial duty, instruction and government, and describe the whole pastoral work.
The observable fact is, that in his charge to the newly invested apostle, our Lord uses the command, " to feed” twice, and to govern but once. Why was this? It would seem plainly to set forth the fact that the great duty of the minister of Jesus is to preach the word, and to furnish the people with instruction, and that the function of government is subordinate to that of instruction in its prominence and importance. How needful this truth was, all subsequent history establishes. It is the tendency of all false systems of religion to generate priestcraft and ghostly rule, because it is the tendency of the unsanctified heart to grasp power. This tendency has been especially manifest in that apostate church, which, as if in a judicial blindness of self-condemnation, has called
itself by the name of Peter. That church, in the face of this charge of the Lord, has elevated the governing and liturgical office of the minister above that of preaching and instructing, and thus reversed the words of Jesus. It would seem, in foresight of this grasp at priestly power, that our Lord, in giving Peter his apostolic charge, twice commands him to feed, and but once to govern.
Hence it is plain how little support is here furnished for the figment of the primacy of Peter. This reinvestment of office and charge have sometimes been used for that purpose, but in flagrant disregard of the whole teaching of the scene. Our Lord does not appoint him chief shepherd on earth, but only reinstates him in an office he had lost by his fall. The absurdity of this claim is apparent from the fact that Peter, thirty years after this time, when writing his epistle, gives the same charge to the elders of the church, and expressly disavows all primacy. “The elders which are among you, I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ-feed* the flock of God, which is among you, taking the oversight (the episcopacy) thereof-neither as being lords over God's heritage.” 1 Pet. v. 1-3. Using the same word to describe their official work that our Lord does in describing his, he transfers to all these elders whatever power Christ bestowed
on him in the use of this word, and accompanies this with a warning against priestly domination.
We have then, in this thrice-repeated restoration to office, a precise correspondence to the thrice-repeated fall, and a delineation of the nature of the ministerial work. It is an office of teaching and ruling, but the great function of it is, to preach the gospel. In doing this, the pastor must begin with the lambs, instruct and secure the instruction of the young, then instruct and rule discreetly the more advanced, so that each one may receive his food in due season, and he should remember always that he holds and uses his office not for his own good, but for the good of others.
Having sketched the work of his life, our Lord then indicates the nature of his death. “When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, &c.” This we are assured was an intimation that, after the toil of a long life, he must end that life with the death of a martyr. Indeed we have reason to believe that at least this portion of the gospel of John was written after the death of Peter, and hence the prominence given to this prediction. Many years passed before this prophecy was fulfilled, but tradition affirms that at last it was veri. fied, and this strong-hearted apostle ended his career on the cross. But it is also affirmed that he begged the privilege, which was granted to him, of being crucified with his head downward, feeling un
worthy of the privilege of suffering precisely like his beloved Master. Thus was it literally fulfilled, that when he was old, he stretched forth his hands, and another girded him and carried him whither he would not. And we cannot doubt that, as the mists of death gathered over his eyes, the same form that appeared on the lonely hills of Galilee was revealed again, and that as he neared the shore of eternity, he saw, not a fire of coals and fish thereon, but the radiant scenes of that city that hath foundations, where he was welcomed to the rest that remaineth for the people of God.
Having delivered this prophecy in words, our Lord embodied it in a symbolical act, and moving up the rocky shore said to Peter, “Follow me.”
III. Lessons from this scene.
1. The essence of the Christian life is love to Christ, Loveto God and man is the fulfilling of the law;love to the God-man, the divine and yet human Saviour, is the essence of the gospel. So it was with Peter as these questions proved, and so it must be with us, We too have denied Christ. Impenitence is a constant denial of him, a constant asseveration, “I am not his disciple.” There is nothing of which the impenitent man is more ashamed than of acknowledging that he is anxious about his soul. His life is a denial of Jesus. Nor does this always cease when he enters the church. The Christian
professor often denies his Master, and conceals bis profession, or makes some unworthy compromise with the world.
Then it may be that Jesus comes to him after some season of darkness and sorrow, and whispers comfort to his soul, and even makes the rocky shore to glow with rich provision for his wants, and then whispers in his ear, “ Lovest thou me ?".
If the dealings of God have been sanctified to his soul, he will have an humble spirit, a spirit that will not claim superiority over other disciples, but only say with lowly and yet fervent sincerity, “ Thou knowest that I love thee."
He will have a penitent spirit that is not only grieved for sin in the past, but resolved to avoid it in the future. And he will also have a drawing of his heart to Jesus, so that though he can only reach him by wading through the deep waters, or climbing the rugged hills, he will strive to get nearer to him, feeling that the love of Christ constrains him, and that his life is now love.
2. The test of love is obedience. “If ye love me, keep my commandments," was only another form of the same test that our Lord gave to Peter when he said, “ Feed my sheep." There is a love that vents itself in raptures and ecstasy, which may be a spurious excitement. The test is, Do you work for Christ? He is not on earth in person, but he has many representatives. The lambs and the sheep are